Grafton B&O Railroad Station
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has had a presence in Grafton since the town's founding when their line reached the area in the early 1850s. In 1911 the B&O constructed a new, large station and an adjacent hotel to handle the growing rail traffic going through Grafton. This opulent, Beaux Arts style building contained B&O offices, ticket and luggage departments, a passenger lobby, and a restaurant. It prospered during the first half of the nineteenth century, but by the 1960s it had entered a steep decline. Passenger service at the station was discontinued in 1971, and by 1988 the building lay vacant. Since 1998 the Vandalia Heritage Foundation has been working to restore and repurpose the station. It is included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Grafton Downtown Commercial Historic District, created in 1984.
Backstory and Context
The town of Grafton was founded in the 1850s as a direct result of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) building its line through the area. Around 1852 a building called the Grafton House was constructed to serve as both the train station and hotel for passengers traveling on the line. By the early 1900s, growing rail traffic made this structure insufficient for the area’s needs. In 1910 a section of land along East Main Street was acquired to build a new station and a new hotel.
The B&O Railroad Station was the first of the two structures to be built, and was completed in 1911. This imposing, three-story structure cost $125,000 to construct and was noted for its opulence. It was designed in the Beaux Arts style and utilized brick, granite, and ornamental terra cotta for the exterior, and included marble floors and tall columns in the interior. It interestingly had a façade on both the side facing Main Street, and the side facing the railroad. The first floor was divided into an East Wing, a West Wing, and a Grand Hall in the center. The new station contained local B&O offices, baggage and ticket offices, a large passenger lobby, and a restaurant. The Willard Hotel opened next to the station a year later to house passengers traveling on the line.
For the first few decades the train station flourished as traffic on the B&O increased. At its peak in the 1920s there were over thirty passenger trains passing through Grafton every day. After World War II, passenger traffic began a permanent steady decline due to the rise of highways and airlines. In 1971 the B&O discontinued passenger service at the Grafton station altogether, but the building remained in use as the division office. During the 1980s CSX Transportation, the successor to the B&O, transferred local operations from Grafton to Jacksonville, Florida; both the station and the nearby Willard Hotel were left vacant as a result. Cargo trains continue to travel on the line but do not utilize the station.
Around 1998 the Vandalia Heritage Foundation was established and began working to redevelop both structures. The roof of the station was soon replaced to prevent more damage to the interior. Over the years Vandalia has slowly worked to restore and renovate the B&O Station for the purpose of adaptive reuse. Various ideas have been floated for the building’s future use. Currently there are plans to create a space available to rent for special events, a music venue, retail shops, offices, and even residential units.
“B&O Railroad Depot and Willard Hotel, Grafton WV.” Alpha Associates. Accessed November 18, 2018. http://www.thinkalphafirst.com/artwork.php?art_id=9
Davis, Jim. “B&O Railroad Station, Willard Hotel sit vacant as reminders of Grafton’s past.” The Exponent Telegram. June 28, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2018. https://www.wvnews.com/theet/news/local/b-o-railroad-station-willard-hotel-sit-vacant-as-reminders/article_0fbceafb-4d54-5184-a3ee-be2d28fc0e62.html
“Heritage & History.” visitgraftonwv.com. Accessed November 18, 2018. http://visitgraftonwv.com/history.htm
Pash, Jessica. “Railroad industry once helped the city of Grafton flourish.” WDTV. April 20, 2018. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.wdtv.com/content/news/Railroad-industry-once-helped-the-city-of-Grafton-flourish-480369993.html
Reed, Paula Stoner. “Grafton Downtown Commercial Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. September 1983. Accessed November 18, 2018. http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/taylor/84003675.pdf
Image 1: https://www.loc.gov/item/2015631675/
Image 2: http://www.wvarchitects.com/wv1.htm
Image 3: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6c/B%26O_Insignia_-_Grafton%2C_WV_Station.jpg/1280px-B%26O_Insignia_-_Grafton%2C_WV_Station.jpg
"West Virginia's Sesquicentennial Highway Historical Markers." West Virginia Archives & History. Accessed October 7, 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/history/markers/sesqui/b&orailroad.html.